Australian Cattle and Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog

Australian Cattle DogAustralian Cattle Dog

The Australian Cattle Dog and Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog were extremely important in the initial settlement of Australia as a colony. Stemming from a cross between the Australian Dingo and an assortment of British herding dogs, these two breeds were originally developed to muster and drive mobs of cattle from remote unfenced outback areas to the sale yards of Sydney. Whether called the 'Blue Heeler', the 'Queensland Heeler', 'the Australian Heeler' or simply 'Bluey', the Australian Cattle Dog and the Stumpy Tail Cattle dog are an iconic part of Australia's history.

Our Purpose Bred Cattle Dog

Australian DingoAustralian Dingo

Prior to British colonisation of Australia in 1788, there were no domesticated farm animals such as the sheep and cattle. The original inhabitants, the Australian Aborigines, were hunter-gathers that lived off flora and fauna such as kangaroos and other animals indigenous to Australia. When Australia was first occupied by the British the only dog here was the Australian Dingo. Early British settlers were mainly convicts and the officers in charge of them. There was no available knowledge of agriculture or any understanding of this inhospitable dry country with its droughts and flooding rains.

Cur-dog or Smooth Coated bob-tail CollieCur-dog or Smooth Coated bob-tail Collie

But by 1803, there was a Government Herd of cattle in NSW numbering 1,530 but few were killed for food. Some cattle also went to Hobart in Tasmania[5]. Then free settlers were either granted land provided they farmed it for a minimum of five years, or illegally occupied it as squatters. The only sheep or cattle dogs were brought from Britain. These were probably the early Welsh Grey Herding dogs, the Cur-dog or Smooth Coated bob-tail Collie illustrated. By 1821 the production of acceptable numbers of cattle provided the type of meat the British were accustomed to, so more settlers remained in Australia rather than returning to Britain, or were attracted to emigrate here.

History of the Australian Cattle Dog

Rough Coated CollieRough Coated Collie

During the 1820's, huge areas of land were opened up in all directions from Sydney. But there was little fencing so cattle were free to roam. Mobs of cattle had to mustered, sorted and those not retained for breeding had to be driven from isolated homesteads along designated stock routes to the Sydney sale yards. As described in the story of the Dog's Grave in Victoria, this journey may take several weeks. As the herding dogs of Britain proved unsuitable, it became necessary to produce an Australian purpose bred cattle dog with the ability to cope with not only hundreds of acres of unfenced wilderness, but also the strange terrain, vegetation and most importantly the heat.

Smithfield (modern)Smithfield (modern)

The first herding type of dog to be used for cattle in Australia was the Black Bob-tail or 'Smithfield'. Somewhat like the early Old English Sheepdogs, these dogs like the one pictured still exists in various parts of Australia today, particularly Tasmania. Robert Kaleski described these as 'a black bob-tailed, big rough-coated, square bodied dog, with a head like a wedge a white frill around the neck and saddle flap ears. He got over the ground like a native bear... but he couldn't stand the heat and long trips'[1].

Australian Cattle Dog (Red)Australian Cattle Dog (Red)

The development our Australian Cattle Dog and the Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog began with crossing the Smithfield with our native dog, the Australian Dingo. The first crosses were done by a drover named Timmins and were called 'Timmins Heelers' or 'Timmins Red Bobtails'. But these were not very successful[3].

Cattle Dog Stamp 1980Cattle Dog Stamp 1980

Then on his property north of Sydney, Thomas Hall experimented with crossing English Sheepdogs or Welsh Grey Herding dogs with the tame dingoes the aborigines kept. Not only had the dingoes developed by natural selection over thousands of years to withstand Australia's severe climate, the dingo's instinct to creep up silently behind its prey before biting, proved useful when mustering mobs of cattle.

Australian Cattle Dog (1908)Australian Cattle Dog (1908)

So by 1835 'Halls Heelers' had been developed[2]. Late in the 1800's, Kaleski wrote a breed description which was published in 1903 as the first Breed Standard but with no description of the tail. Some people believe further crosses with British breeds like the Bull Terrier and the Dalmatian occurred and certainly there could have been an infusion of Kelpie blood. After all, the main aim was to produce a dog suitable to work cattle in Australia's harsh conditions. Their success is reflected in today's Australian Cattle Dog.

Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog c 1936Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog c 1936

History of the Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog

Meanwhile, in the northern region of New South Wales and in Queensland, stockmen seemed to prefer the red and the Stumpy Tail Cattle Dogs and by 1920 Queensland had its own Breed Standard. Around 1935 it was written:

The blue heeler sometimes wrongly called the Smithfield..  (and)..  the red bobtail known by drovers as Timmin's breed, the black bob-tail or old English cur-dog... all crossed with the dingo, have played their part in the production of a working dog peculiar to Australian conditions. The result, in general appearance, is that of a small thick-set dingo but with better expression. The polygot (mixture of) ancestry is responsible for all shades of red, blue and tan mottling, and a tail either like that of a dingo - not too long with plenty of brush - or as illustrated, a natural stump tail, reflecting the bob-tail influence for which the old Queensland Kennel Club framed a standard in 1918[3].

Stumpy Tail Cattle DogStumpy Tail Cattle Dog

In 1958 when the ANKC was formed, they decided to amend the Breed Standards for all the Australian breeds. Until 1963 there had been a separate Breed Standard for the Australian Cattle Dog and the Stumpy-tail Cattle Dog. At that time the two breeds could occur in the same litter. So within the same litter, the breeder could register each pup separately as either a Cattle Dog or a Stumpy Tail.

Stumpy Tail Cattle DogStumpy Tail Cattle Dog

But in the late 1960's the Queensland Control Council (Kennel Club) put a stop to this and de-registered all Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog breeders. One rebel breeder remained, Mrs Iris Heale who could not keep the breed alive single handed. By 1988, the breed was facing extinction. So the ANKC resurrected the Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog with a complicated 'Development Breeding Programme'[2a]. Today, if not working cattle he is a such a versatile dog he can compete admirably in modern day disciplines.

Cattle Dog pup by 3 months Cattle Dog pup by 3 months

Colour Change in Australian Cattle Dog and Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog Pups

Cattle Dog pups new bornCattle Dog pups new born

Both Cattle Dog and Stumpy Tail Cattle Dogs are born white with just a small amount of colour on their ears as demonstrated in the picture of the litter of new born Cattle Dog pups. The colour begins to show through by 3 weeks so that by three months, the adult colouring is clearly visible.

Apart from the length of their tails, these two breeds at first glance may look remarkably similar. After all, they are both around the same size. But when considering their overall build as well as the minor discrepancies in their coat and colour, it is important to realize how the breed type can alter once the gene pool has been split. Hence the comparison below.

Comparison between the Australian Cattle Dog and the Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog

Australian Cattle Dog Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog
General Appearance A strong compact, symmetrically built working dog, conveying the impression of great agility, strength and endurance. A well proportioned working dog, rather square in profile with a hard-bitten, rugged appearance, capable of long periods of arduous work.
Tail The tail should approximately reach the hock and carry a good brush. Set moderately low, at rest it should hang in a slight curve. During movement or excitement it may be raised, but not past a vertical line drawn through the root. The undocked tail is of a natural length not exceeding 10 centimetres (4 inches), Set on high but not carried much above the level of the back.

Australian Cattle DogAustralian Cattle Dog

Stumpy Tail Cattle DogStumpy Tail Cattle Dog
Colour

1. Blue, blue-mottled or blue speckled with or without black, blue or tan markings on the head but not desirable on the body. Tan undercoat is permissible providing it does not show through the blue outer coat.

2. Red speckle all over including a red undercoat with or without darker even red markings on the head but not on the body.

Blues may have tan markings in the normal back and tan coat pattern.

1. Blue Mottle or Blue Speckle with or without black markings on the head and body. Must have the same coloured undercoat.

2. Red Speckle with or without red markings on the head or body but without any blue showing through the undercoat or on the head.

Blues and Reds may NOT have tan markings in the normal black and tan coat pattern.
Size Dogs 46-51 cms (18-20 ins) at withers with bitches 43-48 cms (17-19 ins). Dogs 46-51 cms (18-20 ins) at withers with bitches 43-48 cms (17-19 ins).
Australian Cattle DogAustralian Cattle Dog Stumpy Tail Cattle DogStumpy Tail Cattle Dog
Skull

The skull is broad and slightly curved between the ears with muscular cheeks. It has a slight but definite stop.

The flat skull is broad between the ears, with muscular cheeks. It has a slight but definite stop.
Foreface The foreface is broad and well filled in under the eyes with a deep and powerful underjaw, tight lips and a black nose. The skull and muzzle have parallel head planes. The foreface is well filled up under the eyes with deep powerful jaws and a black nose.
Mouth Normal scissors bite with sound, strong teeth. Normal scissors bite with sound, strong teeth.
Eyes The oval shaped eyes should be of medium size, and dark brown in colour. The almond shaped eyes should be of moderate size, and dark brown in colour.
Ears The pricked, thick textured ears should be of moderate size, broad at the base and moderately pointed. They are set wide apart with the inside of the ear fairly well furnished with hair. The pricked, thick textured ears are moderately small, and almost pointed. They are set high on the skull yet well apart, with the inside the ear well furnished with hair.
Australian Cattle DogAustralian Cattle Dog Stumpy Tail Cattle DogStumpy Tail Cattle Dog
Neck Extremely strong and muscular, of medium length, free from dewlap. Exceptionally strong and muscular of medium length, free from dewlap.
Legs The forelegs should be straight and parallel when viewed from the front and have strong, round bone extending to the feet. But when viewed from the side, the pasterns show their flexibility by being angled slightly. The forelegs are well boned, muscular and straight when viewed from either the side or front, with very strong flexible pasterns.
Feet The feet should be round and the toes short and well arched. The pads are hard and deep, with short, strong nails. The feet should be round and strong with deep pads and strong, short dark nails.
Body

The length of body from the point of breast bone, in a straight line to the buttocks, is greater than the height at the withers, as 10 is to 9. The shoulders are strong, sloping, muscular and well angulated but not too close at the point of the withers. The chest is deep, muscular and moderately broad and the ribs well sprung. The back is level and strong with muscular strong loins and muscular, and a rather long and sloping croup. The hindquarters have long, broad and well developed thighs, well turned stifles and short strong hocks.


The length of the body from the point of the breast-bone to the buttocks should be equal to the height of the withers, ensuring the dog is square in profile. The shoulders are clean, muscular and sloping. The chest is moderately broad and ribs are well sprung. The back is level, broad and strong with deep and muscular loins. The hindquarters are broad, powerful and muscular, with well developed thighs, moderately turned stifles and short hocks.
Australian Cattle DogAustralian Cattle Dog Stumpy Tail Cattle DogStumpy Tail Cattle Dog
Gait The tireless action is sound, free and supple and capable of moving quickly and suddenly with the powerful thrust of the hindquarters. The shoulders and forelegs should be in unison but when the dog stops it should stand four square. The tireless movement is sound, true, free and supple, capable of moving quickly and suddenly. The shoulders and forelegs should be in unison with powerful thrust of the hindquarters.
Coat The double coat has a close rain-resisting outer-coat and a short, dense close undercoat. The coat is longer and thicker along the neck and behind the legs and on the breeching. As an average, the hairs on the body should be from 2.5 to 4 cms (approx. 1-1.5 ins) in length. The double coat has an outer coat that is moderately short, straight, dense with a medium harsh texture. The undercoat is short, dense and soft. The coat around the neck is longer, forming mild ruff. The hair on the head, legs and feet, is short.

References and Further Reading

[1] Robert Kaleski, 'Australian Barkers and Biters' Published by 'The Endeavour Press' 252 George St Sydney NSW Australia 1914 'The Australian Cattle Dog' Page 78 - 81

[2] Noreen L Clarke 'A Dog Called Blue' Published by Writelight Pty Ltd for Noreen L Clarke PO Box 48 Wallacia NSW 2745 Australia Chapter 2 'The Hall's Heeler' page 11

[2a] Ibid., B M Merchant Chapter 11 'The Redevelopment of the Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog' Page 123

[3] H.D.Caldwell, 'The Courier Mail Dog Book' Published by Queensland Newspapers Pty Ltd (circa 1935) Page 17

[4] Cheryl Ann Edwards 'Australian Cattle Dogs Old Timers' self published IBSN 0 646 208136 The Australian Cattle Dog by Robert Kaleski Page 10

[5] Michael Pearson & Jane Lennon, 'Pastoral Australia' Fortunes, Failures and Hard Yakka' A Historical Overview Published by CSIRO Publishing 2010 Chapter 1 Genesis 1788 - 1830 Page 4

[6] Eric Rolls 'A Million Wild Acres, 200 years of Man and the Australian Forest' Published by Thomas Nelson (Australia) 1981, Chapter 3 'The Squatters - the Rules Ignored' Page 66


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